I have decided to take a break from swimming matters for a few weeks. But I will return to that subject. My guess is sometime in November. In the meantime, I plan to occupy my writing time discussing the leadup to the New Zealand General Election.

I was raised in a family where politics was an almost daily dinner time discussion. We all knew each other’s political views. Debate was healthy, spirited and entirely without malice. It was inevitable that I would go on to spend three years at university earning a degree in Political Science.

In the cause of honesty, I should admit my voting history. I have a checkered past. I voted for Margaret Thatcher in the General Election that first saw her become the United Kingdom Prime Minister. You can’t get more right wing than that. In the early 1980s I voted for the Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party. I voted for Winston Peters’ New Zealand First party twice, I think, in the 1990s. And for the past ten years, and especially since Jacinda Ardern took over the reins, I have voted solidly Labour – both for the party and the candidate.

There is an amount of personality cult in my loyalty to Labour. I do admire the way Jacinda, in three years, has handled a deadly volcanic eruption, the savage slaughter of Muslims in Christchurch, a worldwide pandemic and has successfully given birth to her first child. What is there not to admire about that? How does a leader with that CV not deserve our continued support?

This first political post will discuss last night’s leader’s debate. The mainstream media has described it accurately as a contrast in styles. Judith Collins was true to type. Her attack dog, aggressive, gutter debating style was to be expected and is what she delivered. Demonstrating again the class she has shown during three years in power, Jacinda Ardern did not reply in kind. With Michelle Obama control Jacinda Ardern held firm – when others go low, she went high.

I would be greatly saddened if Judith Collins’ behavior last night was what my country wanted in a leader. If that was true Donald Trump would be America’s greatest President. Because for an hour or so Judith Collins was Donald Trump lite. She was aggressive, rude, personal, and shallow. That is not the qualities New Zealand needs in a leader. America made that mistake. We should not do the same.

Somehow Jacinda refused to get into the gutter with the National Party’s rottweiler. She answered John Campbell’s questions just as a good leader should. She stayed on subject, discussing what was best for the country, refusing the ample opportunities to score cheap political points. It would be a sad day for New Zealand if bad mannered abuse were to score a political victory over dignity, intelligence and class. We will see.

What does disappoint me is the praise many in the mainstream media find in Judith Collins’ performance. Oh, I expect no less from Mike Hosking. His three hour party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party every morning is full of the same disgusting behavior as Judith Collins showed last night. In fact on the morning before the debate he interviewed Jacinda Ardern. How she remained calm under the torrent of abuse, I have no idea.

I am certain Hosking will say it is simply him asking tough questions. But it is not. It is perfectly possible to ask tough questions without resorting to abuse. A good interview should not involve bad manners. But through it all Jacinda Ardern remained calm and dignified, demonstrating again the leadership that has served New Zealand well. Yesterday Mike Hosking and Judith Collins did our country a huge favour. The gave Jacinda Ardern the chance to show why she should stay as the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Because no matter what the provocation, no matter the pressure, she rose above. When they went low, she went high. Well done Jacinda Ardern. That is what a Prime Minister looks like to me. We can do without a Judith “Trump” thank you very much.

And as for Newshub’s Dan Satherley his reporting was even worse than Mike Hosking. His headline said, “I’m bringing my sass’: Collins tells Ardern to ‘go home’ if she can’t handle ‘bloodsport”. The admiration in his reporting demonstrates only the shallow inadequacy of his IQ. Surely Satherley can see that managing the country is not a “bloodsport”. If Jacinda Ardern has taught New Zealand anything in the past three years, it is the importance of class in leadership. Oh, Jacinda can handle “bloodsport” all right. In Christchurch she handled more “bloodsport” than any of us will ever care to imagine. For Judith Collins to link Jacinda to a word like “bloodsport” is a disgrace.

And on a final positive note Eyad Massoud, the Syrian refugee I coach, was last week added to the New Zealand voting roll. Fingers crossed he also reads Swimwatch.    

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